Excuse Me While I Draw Some Boundaries: In My Own Skin {Part II}


{Part I is here}

The month of February is a hard one for many transracial families. It brings to the surface that which is always present, but rarely spoken—the gap between my shade of skin and the skin of my child.

This year was especially heartbreaking. A little boy in my daughter’s class had taken the lesson on segregation and applied it immediately following PE. They were standing together in the back of the line when he turns to her and says, “You can’t drink from this fountain. This fountain is the good water and you need to go find the bad water.”

When I picked her up that day from school she was quiet {unlike her, ever} and reserved {again, totally different child here}. I asked her what was wrong, but she brushed me off until we got to the car.

And then she told me the story.

And then I did a u-turn in the middle of six lanes of traffic.

My hands shaking and my heart pounding as I reminded myself, “He’s a seven year old boy. He’s a seven year old boy. That means first: He’s a child and can be taught. Second: If I hurt him I’ll go to jail.”

I left the kids in the car and ran back into the school building, eyes hot with anger, straight to a teacher’s room who sat on the same end of the skin spectrum as my daughter. What she said broke my heart.

“She’ll need to go ahead and get used to this.” Then she instructed me on how to help my daughter. How to educate her on the beauty of her skin and everything that it contains.

And she was right.

I needed to teach her—today and everyday—that she’s beautiful. That her skin color is not a mistake, nor is it a handicap, nor does it make her less human. She’s my daughter. She’s got something to give this world. God has her here, in America, for such a time.

I needed to root her in truth so that her taproot would go deep to the source.

So that when someone projects ignorance in her direction, she can educate them on who she is.

Identity. Confidence. The ability to embrace ourselves.

Circumstances can’t change this. Emotional chaos can’t shake this. Finances don’t validate it. Careers don’t define it.

It’s the essence of us. The closest and most important boundary we can nurture. We must be comfortable in our own skin.

We must know that everything we are is who we should be. And all we should be can be found in who we are.

It is the belief that God has found us perfectly acceptable. As in, he is proud to call us by name.

I was in my mid-twenties when I had a friend walk me through the dark halls of false identity. For years I was who others perceived me to be. Slowly, she lit the hallway, one light at a time, and I realized I was so much more than that.

The boundary of self has been precious. And I’m delighted to revisit it as a point of reference—a place from which my journey begins.


We are not an accident.

We are not a mistake.

We are not failures.

Our heartbreak is not too much for God.

We are not alone.

It is not our fault.

Our pain does not define us.

We are not a product of circumstance.

We are loved.

We are here on purpose.

Our children are ours on purpose.

We were given gifts for a purpose.

We are the source of joy.

Our existence is part of a plan.

Our individuality is a confession of glory.

Our story matters.

Others need to know us.

My daughter, skin color doesn’t surprise God. Diversity delights Him.

Large families don’t overwhelm Him or stress Him out. They are His world’s wealth.

Infertility doesn’t anger Him for He is an adoptive Father ten thousand times over.

Adultery is not too much for Him. He is a forgiving lover.

Conflict is not the absence of Him. He is the peace that ushers in.

The naivety of youth doesn’t anger Him. He is the agelessness of eternity.

Loneliness is not too much for Him. He whispers in the silent places.

Domestic violence is not a trap to Him. He is your escape and protection.

He is the God of Hagar. The God who hears and sees.

He is the God of Abraham. The God who is faithful.

He is the God of Joseph. He advocates for your good and is with you in bad.

He is the God of Moses. He sets us free.

He is the God of Deborah and helps us lead.

He’s the God of Rahab and makes us family.

He’s the God of the sinful woman and can be trusted with our future.

He’s the God of Mary and invites you into His story.

He is the Father of Jesus. He gives you His all.

And in return. He asks for all of you.

Is there any part of our life that is intended to be without boundaries? Yes. It our surrender to Him. Wild, carefree, absolute, all-encompassing, without limitations. All of us may pour out before all of Him because He did it first.

Boundary of Giftedness: Keeping Only What Belongs to Me

This is important.  Very important. My husband isn’t always a joy on Christmas day. He’s super methodical on how things are supposed to happen. It’s probably not a far stretch of the imagination to imagine me, sitting in front of our tree, ready to tear into the pretty coordinating paper and bows (mostly because I don’t wrap this way, so I can’t wait to see what’s inside. My presents are all wrapped in the same paper with last year’s bows and tags flipped to the other side and used again.)

I can be so eager, that sometimes I’ll hand out the wrong gifts to the kids. Since everyone’s part of the same family, I don’t see what the big deal is.

Until we had girls.

And I handed my son a create-your-own glitter hair band kit.

And he looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

And I told him he needed a haircut and this was a hint—he sort of looked like a girl.

While my daughter was heartbroken because this is what she wanted for Christmas.

So my husband had a method where each of us gets one gift in our lap and it must have our name on it. Then we take turns opening our gift. Then we oooh and ahhh over that gift (while my hands are itching to rip my own paper to shreds) and we patiently move to the next person. With seven people in the family, we finish Christmas morning just on time for bed.

And I rejoice because I don’t have to cook.

But there is something accurate about this idea of his.

In real life, we are each given certain gifts. How many times have I tried to claim someone else’s? {Next post we are going to examine boundaries and comparisons. But for right now, just focusing in on the one.}

I keep unwrapping someone else’s gift and ending up with glittery hairbands when I should be getting a haircut and playing Minecraft.

That’s supposed to be the other way around.

Seriously. Here’s what happens. I open someone else’s gift and get attached to it, even though it doesn’t fit and it’s really not me.

I see the gift I’m supposed to have, but I’m afraid of it. It’s not the same as the gift right here in my lap and frankly, most people think this gift is cooler or more adventurous or even more useful.

The gift I’m supposed to have looks like something I have to grow into. How long will that take? And what do I do while it’s all baggy on me and people are looking and wondering, “Are you sure that’s her gift? It doesn’t look like it fits.”

And I’m like, “Yes. God put my name on it. So I’m just standing here growing into it. Wait and see.”

And God’s giving me a high five and saying something like, “That’s right, sister!”

So I guess it’s time to stop keeping gifts that never had my name on them. This is something I’m going to forget. So it’s best to write myself a note:

Dear Marian, This one is going to fit sometime in the future. It really depends on how much you nurture it and grow in it. In the mean time, stop upwrapping other people’s presents {Which you sort of wrote about here}.

Love, Yourself. Love yourself.

Understanding Where I Stop & God Starts

This is the biggest for me. While I was in college, I worked in ICU. Very few of our patients were awake.

I remember two in particular. One came up from surgery and went through 5 states worth of blood so that she would stay alive and not die within the window of responsibility of the attending physician. He couldn’t afford another death that close to surgery. So while five states were depleted of live saving blood, she lay there on the bed, stomach exposed, hemostats holding her insides together, Tagaderm covering all the above.

Just so that one doctor wasn’t responsible.

Wasn’t he?

Another patient went through ins and outs of wakefulness. She was a sweetheart. Easy to care for. At peace with her circumstances. And when she died, every nurse who had cared for her felt the burden of life lost. There was more they should have done.

Or was there?

One of my favorite things to do with my husband in ministry is counsel people. But much like the nurses of the second patient, the ones who struggled with her death as though they had control over it, I struggle when our counseling doesn’t prevent the death of marriage. Or I struggle when we don’t see the birth of purpose in Christ.

Not struggle like getting in the car and saying, “That sucks. I really thought they were going to make it. Bummer. What do you want to do for dinner?”

More like I take on this deep sense of responsibility like somehow I failed them. I failed their children. I failed their families. I failed God.

Like I said last time. I’ve been disillusioned–thinking I’m their Jesus.

And Jesus has finally stopped me and reminded me he doesn’t need my help. That I have a very specific role. I’m to operate inside that role. And stop hogging the rest.

There’s a parable I love: Mark 4.26-29

Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a [wo]man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—[s]he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, [s]he reaps—harvest time!

Did you catch that? We have a specific role. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I can stop living like the spiritual growth of others depends upon me.

What’s my point?

There are some things in life that are my responsibility, but I’m shirking them. Just like the doctor who depleted 5 eastern states’ blood supply so that he wouldn’t be sued for malpractice. I need to stop running and start facing responsibility. So my question to myself this week is this: What has God entrusted to me?

There are some things I’ve taken charge of in life that simply aren’t mine. Not only am I not operating in my giftedness, but I’ve stolen the opportunity for someone to serve in theirs. Like the nurses who mourned the death of the sweet woman, believing it was their fault rather than her time, I’ve mistakenly believed I’m in control of things I’m not. So my question here this week would be: What do I need to let go of? What can I release so that I start to have room in my life to breathe?

And like the sewer of the seed, I have a very specific role in this kingdom of God. I have a very specific purpose. I don’t need to know how it’s all going to end. I don’t need to be sure that I’ve sustained every person I meet. I just need to let go and let God. My question to God here this week is: What is my role? Nothing more, nothing less. What do you want me to do?

Next post…The difference between distraction and interruption. Which one does Jesus embrace? And Excuse Me While I Draw Some Boundaries: Dropping the Stick of Comparison


2 thoughts on “Excuse Me While I Draw Some Boundaries: In My Own Skin {Part II}

  1. Thanks Marian. Loved your analogy of the gifts. God called me into youth ministry a long time ago. It’s a gift I still don’t fit into. I feel a lot like Moses, but I’m afraid I haven’t applied myself to growing into it. Now I’m really old…like 34. Haha. I know you’re 34 too. I’m sure it’s unfounded, but I worry that I’m too old for that role now.

    1. Chris, Since we’ve been on both sides now–youth ministry and parents of a teenager–you are NOT too old to fit into your gift. Teenagers simply need someone who is willing to invest in them. They don’t care about age, but rather availability and acceptance. They know when they are being loved and when they aren’t. There is wisdom we refine as we age and this wisdom wasn’t present always when Nathan and I worked with teens when we were younger. I’d do some things differently now. So, see, we truly better {I hope} with age. I guarantee there is a youth group just waiting, desperately, for a youth worker. And if you aren’t ready for that yet, then get involved mentoring someone younger. Wait and see…but always be faithful in exercising your gift in some capacity. 🙂 I’m excited for you. Thanks for sharing and joining the conversation, Chris.

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